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Friday, February 1, 2019

Chennai Corporation mulls trapping cattle at Marina

‘amma nee sumantha pillai’ was an emotional song in ‘Annai Or Aalayam’ – a Rajnikant – Sripriya starrer released in 1979.  Illayaraja’s background scores and the songs were strong source for the success of the film.   In the film, Rajni plays the role of a wildlife hunter – a calf elephant would be trapped – and later would come this song when Rajni would lose his mother and grieve for her ! 

Trapping animals were part of those day ‘safari’ movies – when we enjoyed seeing Africal lions and elephants being shown on screen – they were great hits those days.  Back homes, in Triplicane, the bovine menace continues – in 1970s, Triplicane housed 100s of cattle – had seen scores of them in houses in Nagoji rao street; there was a goshala nearer Gangaikondan market and another, much bigger one adjacent to NKT National Girls High school. But those days, the owners would bring the cow, tie it before the house, show the vessel to their buyers, showing that it had no water, milk the cow and handover fresh milk – people bought buffalo milk too.  On a particular day, when a classmate of mine whose family were into milk trade, bought a Delhi buffaloe – I went near, with fear touched it – felt it too silky – and my friend was to explain the difference between the local and the import – in height, in colour, its milching capacity and more  - it was a proud possession for them.

Life has changed – Aavin made a big entry taking away the share – people started lining up before Aavin booths – the bottles and later day milk sachets, became the staple source. Now you have many brands with Aavin too struggling – the no. of cattles in Tripicane have gone down for sure – but the menace is due to the fact that now there are stray cattles – cows left on roads – desperately running after people with bags, expecting greens, vegetables or anything to be eaten. Have seen them eat the film posters – and whatever is thrown on the roads – sad for their plight !  - slowly the docile animal has become violent, chasing people, causing scores of falls, some followed by broken bones and even a couple of deaths too, really sad ..

The Corporation, decades ago, had a force – stray cattle on road, would be caught, impounded near Ice House Police station and released after a fine. Now Corporation neither has the men nor the expertise – the place for impounding them is also non-existent.  Whenever, some make hue and cry and make written complaint, Corporation vehicle would come, somehow, the animal owners would be well informed, there would be none on the streets and the vehicle would return empty-handed.

A few years back, the local Councillor Mr MGR Vasan coordinated and created an infrastructure alongside Marina grounds below the MRTS railway track, some owners took their cattle there – it has some facilities including water provision – yet, some allowed their animals to be roaming freely still.  Many meetings were organised – remember attending local residents meeting on ‘bovine menace’ –  there was a suggestion that cattle be tied in their place and let out only in late nights say around 11 pm and taken to a closed place in the morning.  The local Police Inspector, thundered, who gave you all the permission for allowing them to loiter in nights – if it is banned, it is a ban throughout but said – ok, for little time, let them be allowed to loiter, eat vegetables and other things that they can eat ! ~ as usual nothing happened.

Many a times, in the morning – stray cattle would wander on the Kamarajar salai (beach road) – with little visibility, speeding vehicles would hit them resulting in loss of life of cattle and endangering human life too – a few accidents were reported – once saw, a horse badly injured by a speeding vehicle and in another a young two- wheeler rider sustained nasty injuries, trying to avoid a sudden cow crossing ! – Madras Corporation came up with the idea of rattlers [cattle grids] – at Sunkuwar street and other places. The metal rods make humans pass and cross the slippery surface slowly, they are  narrow not to impede a wheeled vehicle  .. but cattle were up to the challenge.   While humans found it tough and ambled carefully – first saw, a buffalo – came near, slowly weighed the options, started walking slowing – for sure, their hooves would have slipped – yet the animal made a cross; followed by many – and slowly, it became a simple routine for the animals.  Cows on initial days made a dash, one got injured too – even dogs were afraid of crossing – but – now – everything is normal for every animals – they are able to walk on the rattlers making a cross ! – defeating the designs of Corporation.

Now comes the news that Corporation is mulling  setting up cattle traps on Marina.  A Times of India report states that - Concerned at the nearly 30 cows and buffaloes straying on to the Marina every day, at great risk to themselves and beach-goers, Greater Chennai Corporation plans to set up traps at six entry points along the stretch.

“We have received several complaints from tourists and public about cattle, especially buffaloes, obstructing traffic. We tried to create awareness and also warn the cattle owners to not let them loose on the beach. Cattle lumbering along the service lanes have also caused hindrance. Cleanliness is also an issue. So we decided to set up traps to prevent them from entering the beach,” said deputy commissioner (works), M Govinda Rao.

Each trap, set to cost 5 lakh, will involve digging a 2-foot-deep trench in which about 10 3-inch-wide iron pipes will be placed.“We already have a cattle catching machine and sanitary officers catch at least one or two head of cattle almost every day. We have tried warning the residents but every day we see cattle on the beach,” said an official. Most people who take morning walks on the beach have complained about the issue. Sometimes the cattle even enter the sea.

Animal welfare activists,however, came out against the proposal. Dawn William, general manager of Blue Cross of India, said such traps were dangerous and usually set up in industrial areas. “If caught, the leg of the cow or buffalo will definitely break rendering it useless for the owner. Instead of this, the corporation should increase the penalty which is just 10,000 now. Only strict enforcement would help. Hurting the animal will not act as a deterrent for the cattle owners who will continue to send the cattle for grazing. Most of them feed on the garbage. Either garbage should be removed or enforcement should be strict,” he said.

At present, all free-ranging cattle on the roads are caught and taken to the corporation pound at Pullianthope where they are kept for around 10 days. The civic body is also working on enforcement to ensure that cattle don’t stray on roads.The corporation will also set up 900 watt lights in 18 high mast poles set up near the promenade. At present, each high mast pole has bulbs with 300 watts capacity. To increase the illumination and the intensity, 900watts bulbs will be fitted. Two focus lights will also be set up to light up to the entire expanse of sand to shoreline after 11pm. Signages will also be put up to inform people about the importance of maintaining the cleanliness of the beach and other information on available facilities and amenities. At present, there are about 15 dust bins across the sand and the number will be increased to 112 in a few weeks. Landscaping, drinking water, toilets, open gym and benches will also be provided.

Tripicane residents are however, not hopeful, and are pessimistic – they say that, this move too will come a cropper and you will continue to find cattle on the roads.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
10th Jan 2019.

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